Although this was one I wanted to see in the theater, I just got around to renting it this weekend. Overall: Good, solid movie. For some reason, however, it seemed like something was missing.
Being a pretty big Johnny Cash fan, part of me was pretty skeptical about this film. I had heard that the actors do all of their own singing, and with a legendary voice like The Man in Black, I figured that would be pretty hard to pull off. And, let's face it, this isn't a character from fifty years ago that has long since left the public consciousness. The man was famous for about forty years, and he's only been gone for a couple. So it's pretty easy to have some preconceived notions of how he should be portrayed. The man was, and still is, an American icon.
The movie essentially chronicles his rise to fame, beginning with his very humble beginnings and on up through his first marriage and subsequent drug problem. Here's where I think the movie fell a little short. I realize that in this day and age, "drama" is the name of the game with nearly everything. The sensationalism of addictions, abuse, etc. is what sells books/movies/tv shows/family reunions... (well, maybe not that last one), and so producers feel the need to include and over emphasize problems of that nature. The unfortunate side of that is, sometimes it overshadows a better story. That is, to a certain degree, what happened in Walk the Line. I guess they felt that the drug abuse story would sell more tickets than the stories of him essentially giving the finger to some of the biggest corporate entities in the music industry throughout his career. Too bad, as I always found it very interesting that guys like Cash, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings were way more "anti-establishment" than any rock or punk group ever was.
Don't get me wrong, it was a very good movie. The acting was incredible; most notably Reese Witherspoon in the role of June Carter (later Cash). As I said, apparently she did all her own stunts...er, singing, and I must say she did an amazing job. If I believed in award shows, I would say she deserves one. Joaquin Phoenix was pretty good as Cash, too. He was just out-shined by Witherspoon. The other highlight for me would be the scenes showing them out on the road, and the characters he was involved with. Cruising around with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison had to make for some interesting times.
Summary - if you are even remotely a fan of Cash's music, it's definitely worth a rental (a little bit long, and a very abrupt ending. Just a warning). I could probably go off on a whole topic about Cash's music here, but I will keep this review to the movie, only. Worth seeing, but don't sell your kids into slavery for a copy.
Final note: As I said, I am a pretty big fan of Johnny Cash. If you are interested in his music at all, this is a good place to start.